Gov. Ned Lamont addresses a joint session of the Connecticut House and Senate as he presents his budget proposal for 2023-2024. Stephen Busemeyer / CT Mirror

A bill that would make financial literacy education a graduation requirement for Connecticut public high school students has cleared the state Senate.

State Sen. Doug McCrory, Senate Chair of the Education Committee who represents Hartford, Bloomfield and Windsor, led the Senate’s passage of the bill. It is now headed for a vote in the House of Representatives.

The bill would first take effect with the graduating class of 2027. Students would need a half credit of financial literacy and personal finance management to receive their diploma. The courses would focus on a range of topics including banking, investing and the impact of using credit and debit cards.

Sen. McCrory said he’s thrilled about the prospect of all students in Connecticut being able to learn about financial literacy, regardless of where they live.

“This levels the playing field for all students no matter their background and provides them all with the necessary resources they need to function in society. Learning about financial literacy can be beneficial from the time you are 10 years old all the way until you retire,” he said.

Connecticut residents have the highest rate of credit card debt in the nation. And many believe a financial literacy education requirement would be a good opportunity for students to learn about potential financial pitfalls early in life.

Supporters of the bill, like Monette Ferguson, executive director for Alliance for Community Empowerment in Bridgeport, said schools should be educating all students about finances regardless of their socioeconomic status.

“We know that the high cost of education is a barrier for folks who live in poverty, and we don’t want to close any doors. I think that the more young folks that know about the use of money or other options, they will make better informed decisions for their future,” Ferguson said.

Over 60% of Americans live paychecktopaycheck and can’t set aside money for short or long-term financial goals.

Credit card and student loan debt are also at an all-time high. With the knowledge of personal finance, students can make better decisions for themselves, according to Nan J. Morrison, president and CEO of the Council for Economic Education.

“Providing financial education through our schools ensures equitable access so that every child can have a shot at financial stability and economic mobility for themselves and their families,” Morrison said.

Some people have reservations about the bill. Mary Yordon, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, said making these financial classes a graduation requirement may have a potential negative impact in other areas.

“When courses become required courses, there is an impact on resources needed, staffing levels, scheduling, and other impacts that can be predicted and those that may not be easily predicted,” Yordon said.

“Do you want to promote financial literacy at the expense of enrollment in economics courses, for example? We should promote the course, require the course to be taught, but please don’t add to graduation requirements.”

This story was first published May 17, 2023 by Connecticut Public.